Toys and Gender The way children are raised in today’s society is based on the age old tradition of gender appropriate toys for sons and daughters. The idea that girls will always play with feminine toys, and boys will always play with masculine toys has been passed down from generation to generation dating back to the age of men. In medieval times, sons would learn to practice swordplay and knighthood, while daughters would learn sewing and practice at being a princess. The theory of Gender Role identification is important to everyone because it impacts every child and its parents all over the world.
The media is also heavily influential to this idea as well in the way it portrays children in the society. Thus, understanding how children play and what that means in regards to gender role is essential to understanding a child’s growth. Gender roles as defined in the book Choices in Relationships are the social norms that dictate what is socially regarded as appropriate female and male behavior. As children grow up, they essentially learn these specific traits and behaviors from their parents and other children they are around.
In the bigger scale of things, children also learn these behaviors from television, radio, movies, magazines and almost every other media outlet that exists. The media plays an important role in this topic because it showcases how they believe the gender roles should be. The book describes this issue by saying, “Media images of women and men typically conform to traditional gender stereotypes, and media portrayals depicting the exploitation, victimization, and sexual objectification of woman are common. (pg. 90) In a sense, the way children identify with their gender roles is directly influenced by the mass media and the way gender stereotypes are portrayed is going to be an ongoing issue in child gender development. The way a child plays when growing up is directly related to the social learning process. “A derivative of behavioral psychology, the social learning theory emphasizes the roles of reward and punishment in explaining how a child learns gender role behavior. ”(pg. 6) This theory is the explanation as to why children perceive playing with gender appropriate toys is acceptable and unacceptable. When a boy plays with dolls, that notion is perceived as inappropriate because that is not what boys are supposed to do based on the traditional gender role identification. The father in this situation according to the social learning theory, will probably scold the boy for playing with a girl’s toy, and then instruct him to go play with a toy gun, therefore rewarding the boy for doing what is correct.
Another aspect to this theory is the instructional aspect. This is the aspect that involves the parents or peers, in which they tell the children about what is an appropriate way to act according to their sex. This is done by directly telling the child, such as when telling boys that only girls play with dolls, or it can be done by modeling. In modeling, the child observes and imitates the behaviors of the people around them. However, the impactful difference it makes in a child’s behavior is considered controversial.
Mainly because this aspect implies that children will learn the behaviors of the same-sex people they imitate, but mothers are usually the ones who take care of the children. Thus if this were true, then a boys development would be similar to a girls behavioral development, which would create more “feministic” males and “masculine” females in the world. The American Dream also directly governs a child’s gender role development because it had changed the way children played with toys over the last sixty years.
The idea of playing house, where the woman will pretend to cook and clean, while the male would go out and work, then come home and eat dinner and relax is a staple of American households. The belief that we can be whatever we want to be to make something of ourselves transcends down to our children in the sense that they too can pretend to be whoever they want when playing. When asking a child what they want to be when they grow up and they respond with, “I want to be a doctor”, that single handedly changes the way children play.
It’s no longer just “Cops and robbers” that children are playing, but more along the lines of doctors, nurses, lawyers, and businessman. The gender role identification process is a much studied field, yet there are still many mysteries surrounding the true nature of how children learn to become masculine or feminine. The American Dream had created a new design model for the way children grow and become who they are based upon how they play, but so has many other processes throughout the times including war and now recession.
A child’s gender is still mostly identified by the people around it, starting with the parents. So it’s important to remember that parental instruction of leading by example is very beneficial or even detrimental to a child’s development. Even though the mass media is very influential to a child’s gender identification, it’s still not influential as to what a child can learn from its parents. Works Cited Knox, David, and Caroline Schacht. Choices in Relationships: an Introduction to Marriage and Family. 10th ed. Australia: Wadsworth, 2010. Print.